Oct. 23—MANKATO — Twenty-five years ago, the Northwoods League chose Mankato as a home for one of it's collegiate summer baseball franchises.
The success of the Mashers and MoonDogs franchise, plus the area's fondness for fastpitch softball, led the Northwoods League to announce Monday that Mankato will be the home of a franchise for inaugural Northwoods League Softball, which begins play in 2024.
"The community support for the Northwoods League here has been immense," said Kathryn Reynolds, the president and commissioner of Northwoods League Softball. "The opportunity for collegiate athletes and coaches to hone their skills in baseball has been established. In softball, it has not."
The Northwoods League Softball will be the first of its kind in the United States. Like the baseball counterparts, the league will be open to college athletes that still have eligibility remaining, as well as high-schoolers that have signed or committed to a college program.
Last week, La Crosse, Wisconsin, was announced as the first franchise for the softball league. There will be other cities announcing franchises in the coming weeks, though that number has not been released.
Reynolds said that teams will follow the current footprint of the Northwoods League, which has 26 teams in seven states and Canada.
Northwood League Softball will play 40 games, starting in mid-June and running through early August. Each game will last seven innings, and Reynolds said there might be some opportunities to pair a softball and baseball game the same night.
The schedule will be released in December.
The Mankato team will play its 20 home games at ISG Stadium, with temporary fencing, a different pitcher's plate and other dimensions for the batters boxes.
"We are going to be part of history," said Chris Goodell, team president of the Mankato MoonDogs."There is no other softball league in the country. It's a thrilling opportunity coming our way."
The team will use its website (www.mankatosoftball.com) to get fan input on naming the team.
With no other collegiate summer softball league as competition, Goodell said that Mankato has the opportunity to recruit players from any college. A coach and field staff will be announced soon.
"It's not hard to imagine the top talent in the country coming to Mankato," he said.
Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.